The circumstellar envelopes surrounding late-type giants and supergiants were studied using high resolution, photoelectric scans of strong optical resonance lines. A method for extracting the circumstellar from the stellar components of the lines allowed a quantitative determination of the physical conditions in the envelopes and the rates of mass loss at various positions in the red giant region of the HR diagram. The observed strengthening of the circumstellar spectrum with increasing luminosity and later spectral type is probably caused by an increase in the mass of the envelopes. The mass loss rate for individual stars is proportional to the visual luminosity; high rates for the supergiants suggest that mass loss is important in their evolution. The bulk of the mass return to the interstellar medium in the red giant region comes from the normal giants, at a rate comparable to that of planetary nebulae.